A great student experience begins with search
For students moving onto university, there's a lot to learn and it begins long before the first lecture. Now, more than ever, the pressure is on to provide high-quality education with a great student experience.
So what are the factors that influence a great student experience, and why is on-site search a critical part of the entire student journey?
A student's experience of a university doesn't begin on campus, it begins online and starts with a long list of comparisons to help them choose the university that is right for them. Advertising, course offerings and reputation may be enough to get them to your website, but what then?
- which university?
- which degree?
- which courses?
- campus information?
- payments/financial aid?
- peer support/social/community?
The student experience encompasses every aspect of a student's life and interactions with their university from academic studies and progress, to financial and administrative actions, to social interactions and student life. Their whole experience is the key to a successful transition to academic life, degree progression and graduation.
While there are now many ways of offering and delivering education, the ability to offer a genuine and meaningful engagement with students enables them to connect with the university at many levels.
So what does SEARCH have to do with this?
Search is the engine of student experience, not just because of what it does, but what it enables. Let's take a quick dive into a little human behaviour when dealing with technology - in this case, how we behave when visiting websites.
We know that 50% of people go straight to the search bar to navigate a website rather than use the traditional navigation method - that's an important reason to get search right.
But studies also show that offering simple site search on its own is not enough - users demand a high-quality search experience and if they don't get it, they'll not only leave your site - 68% of them will not return. Your potential students will begin their evaluation of your university based on the information and experience you offer online.
And we want to do it ourselves! Research also shows that 84% of website visitors want to solve their own problems using search engines before resorting to asking for assistance.
Great search means that experience will deliver exactly what the user is needing to find AND it will provide highly relevant recommendations for related information.
Most importantly, all students need support for navigating unfamiliar systems and institutional processes, including through enhanced academic, financial, and social support. [Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education. Office of Educational Technology. Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan. Jan 2017.]
Each student will expect different information and great search enables relevant, personalised information and the additional ability to promote relevant content based on search queries.
Good site search should unite digital content across silos into a single user experience.
A great search system can also recommend content to students based on their individual search result - related documents, people, events or news that they may not have thought to look for.
And just as each student is looking for different information, powerful search will also react to numerous variables about those students - are they local, international, what their interests are, their stage of education, etc.
So a great search experience will enable a student to 'curate' their individual experience of university life by:
- suggesting and surfacing content, not just providing answers to search terms
- reacting to numerous variables about those students
- providing information on courses and degrees, staff, events, news and social events
- quickly displaying easily refinable results (just like eBay or Amazon)
- displaying results from different platforms - website content, courses, people, social media, events
- providing contextualised results tailored to the individual based on search data
The extra power under the search engine hood
Every single time someone does a search on your website there is a mass of data being made available for analysis and further use. In short, each search is revealing information about what they are expecting to find. What it tells YOU is whether or not you're meeting those expectations.
This is really powerful information because understanding this data enables communications teams and marketers to not just more precisely target information, but to create more relevant content or service information to fill those gaps.
A great search solution solves a diverse range of problems for higher education - from acquisition to retention and graduation - by putting the student experience at the centre of their education with efficient and flexible technology.
Squiz is a technology company that works with enterprise organisations to create and scale personalised digital services.
Funnelback is Squiz' powerful website search that uses machine learning and advanced algorithms, to surface the most relevant information, fast. Use Funnelback to simultaneously return results from multiple data sources including social, online and enterprise databases.
Then, use insights and analytics dashboards to track search terms, clicks and engagement to ensure you are always delivering the right content.